US plans to boost geothermal production
Oct 23, 2008 - Andrew Donoghue - BusinessGreen
More than 12 million US households could
be powered by underground heat by 2025
The US Department of the Interior announced this
week that it plans to make more than 190 million
acres of federal land, spanning 12 western states,
available for the development of geothermal energy.
If the initiative translates into actual electricity
generation on the same scale, it could increase US
geothermal resources by 10 times.
"Because geothermal energy is replenished by
heat sources deep in the earth, it is a renewable
resource that generates electricity with minimal
carbon emissions," said secretary of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne. "Geothermal offers possibilities
for reducing the need for conventional energy sources."
The US continues to be the world leader in generating
geothermal energy, with about 16,000gWh of energy
generated in 2005, according to Kempthorne. "We
are talking about a very substantial source of renewable
energy," he said.
Under the plan – known as the Final Geothermal
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement – about
5,540MW of new electric generation capacity could
be obtained from geothermal sources by 2015, or enough
to power 5.5 million homes. There are also longer-term
plans to develop an extra 6,600MW by 2025 – which
would be enough to power more than 12 million homes,
the government has claimed.
The plan is not only being positioned as a way to
reduce dependance on carbon-intensive fuels, the
federal government is also keen to point out that
states and counties will benefit from the scheme
with revenue from the leasing of land split between
the different stakeholders both local and national.
A recent sale of geothermal leases in Nevada brought
in $28.2m in August 2008, the agency claims.
Interest in geothermal energy has increased rapidly
over recent months – spurred in part by rising
oil prices, focus on climate change and the desire
for increased energy security – given momentum
by both US presidential hopefuls.
In August, Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org,
announced plans to invest $10.25m (£5.5m) in
research into a new form of geothermal energy technology
that advocates claim could provide more than 2,500
times the US annual energy use.